How to organize a yard sale

Tables set up with items for sale on a driveway. There are lots of people browsing.

Yard sales are an excellent way to meet people, make some money and have fun.  There are many ways to organize a yard sale.  The timing of the sale is important to the success of the sale.  You need to be flexible about pricing if you want to have less stuff at the end of the day.  Let’s start with the easiest way to prepare for a yard sale. 

This way takes less time and energy to set up.

Get a number of boxes or bins to collect your items.  Mark each container with a price $1.00 $2.00 $0.25 $0.50 $5.00 etc.  As you are collecting your items for the sale decide how much you will sell the item for and put the objects of the same price into the same box.    You are pricing items as you sort them so there is less work to do later. Using boxes means you don’t need to price every item individually with a sticker. Many charities will not take items leftover from a yard sale.  Part of the reason is they would need to remove all of the stickers.

Have separate display areas /tables for each price grouping.    Place a sign on the front of each of the tables explaining everything on this table costs _______.  You are finished and ready to have a great day.

This way will help you to have less stuff at the end of the day

Group your items into batches.  For example a set of dishes, all the hand tools, groups of 10 books, baby clothing of the same size, CDs DVDs.   The person needs to buy the entire batch not just part of it.  This way helps you to move more items on each purchase.   They buy 10 CDs for $5.00  instead of 1 for $0.50.  Place batches of items in boxes or see-through bags.

This way makes sure you get the correct price for the item

If you want to use tags the easiest way is to:

  • use one tag colour per price group.
  • red for $10.00, blue for $5.00 etc.
  • place a colour-coded sticker on each item and when the person buys it, you know exactly what to charge.
  • Make a sign explaining that each colour represents a specific price

If you want to do more work you can price items individually.

  • Place a sticker on the item and write on it the cost of the item.
  • This is good for large items that you will be priced higher.

In special circumstances, tags are very helpful if:

  •  the garage sale is for multiple families you can assign each group their own colour and you know which cash box to put the money in.
  • multiple family members are selling items at the same sale you can assign each person their own colour and you know which cash box to put the money in.

You will need to remove the stickers after the sale before you can donate items.

How much should it sell for?

Pricing

If your goal is to sell stuff so you have less at the end of day price items:

  • 50% of the original price for brand new or barely used items
  • 25% – 30% of the original price for the older items
  • You can always ask them to make you an offer.  You might get more than you expected or less.

If you have more expensive items to sell do your research to determine a fair price for the article.

Sometimes a yard sale seems like a great way to make money.  Make sure you are the type of person who likes to barter and is not offended when people tell you that something is not worth the value you have placed on it.

If you will be offended and not make a sale, a yard sale is not for you.

To ensure you get the sale, have change.

Make sure to never leave the money unattended. Keep the money in a waist pouch so it can’t be stolen.

Change

  • have $25 in change
  • $20 in $1, $4 in quarters, $1 in dimes and nickels
  • If you don’t have change people will not buy from you.

Timeline for preparing for a yard sale

It takes time to set up and clean up from a yard sale.

  • sort, clean, price                      1 – 2 days
  • advertising                                2 hrs
  • arrange and display wares    4 hrs
  • get change                                  1 hr
  • tag sale itself                              1 or 2 days
  • take unsold items to charity  3 hrs

Advertising

Advertising is a big part of the success of the sale.  There are lots of Facebook sites, Kijiji and Craigslist where you can advertise for free.  You may also have a local paper where you can place an ad.  Put up signs to let people know where the yard sale is located especially if you are not on well travelled streets with lots of cars and foot traffic.

Pick your date wisely.  Spring and fall are the best times of the year.  Long weekends are times when people travel.  Weekends are usually better than weekdays.  If you can do it with a number of families from your street at the same time you will get better results.

Is a Yard Sale for You?

Yard sales can be a fun way to get rid of your clutter, make some money and meet people if the weather is good.  If you feel you don’t have the time, energy, a good location, great items for sale or don’t like bartering you may want to donate your items to a charity and spend the day doing something else.

How will you organize your yard sale?  Maybe I didn’t mention your favourite way.  Either way, leave me a comment.

A blue and white striped tunnel in the background with Julie Stobbe in the foreground wearing a white blouse.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of physical activity to reduce clutter, in your home and office. She guides and supports you to manage your time. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

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13 thoughts on “How to organize a yard sale”

    1. Thanks for your comment. When having a yard sale it is essential to keep your goals in mind, to reduce the number of things you have in your home. If you have a yard sale and won’t sell things, then reexamine your purpose.

    2. Thanks for reading the post and your comment. Streamlining the preparation for a yard sale helps to reduce the time and effort it takes and might make it more fun and help you to do it more often.

  1. These are terrific “nuts and bolts” nuggets for anyone who is planning a garage sale. Here in CT we call them “tag sales.” I particularly love the idea of pricing out into buckets, instead of tagging every individual item (which takes forever). I’m also a fan of pricing things to sell. If you want more money out of it, consider alternative selling venues. Nobody likes having a ton of stuff left at the end of a garage sale!

    1. Those are wise words Seana. After preparing for the sale, and spending the day setting up and selling the last thing you want is to have a lot leftover to deal with. Tag sale may need to be changed to a bucket sale.

  2. What a great ‘map’ for having a yard or as Seana said, ‘tag’ sale! I love the idea of grouping items in a bag to sell as a unit. It moves more volume and leaves less remaining to donate. We’ve had many tag sales over the years, which we enjoyed doing and were very successful. I like pricing each item so the ‘shoppers’ don’t have to constantly ask how much something costs. And of course, we’re always willing to negotiate. Because the bottom line is that we already made the decision to let that ‘thing’ go. There will be plenty of things that sell for the price you marked and many more that will be negotiated down. And that’s how it goes.

    One of the things I discovered was our local donation place (Goodwill,) stays open late on Sunday nights until 9pm. This was great because after our last sale, we packed things directly into the car and dropped them off. My goal was not to bring anything back into the house and we didn’t.

    1. I agree that the decision needs to be made to let things go before the sale so the ale can be successful. If you’re in the mindset of letting go everything becomes easier, negotiating, pricing and enjoying the experience. It is a good tip to research which thrift stores are open late on the day of your sale.

  3. I’m SO saving this post for my clients. Lots of times, they’ll optimistically throw themselves into the idea of a yard sale without actually understanding how much work it is (and often, how little their stuff is worth). I love how you break it down into options. Excellent information!

    1. I find my clients think the same as yours. Once I explain how to do a sale they usually say will I do it for them. I say no because after they pay me the profit would be gone. I try to ask them, “Would you enjoy spending 8 hours at your sale more than 8 hours doing…….(something they enjoy)?” That sometimes helps them to decide what is fun for them. By donating their things someone else is getting something they need and they are helping a charity.

  4. Great tips for the garage sale expertise. I like the idea of having a price for each table or box and the grouping of items as a package deal. Removing stickers off of each item at the end of the day may not be ideal so good suggestion!

    1. Trying to make the pricing of items simple helps to speed up the setup of a sale. People can have a difficult time and spend a lot of time deciding on a price. This makes the setup take even longer.

  5. This is a super introduction to the *smart* way to do yard/garage sales. I love the idea of grouping similarly-priced items together (and batching similar items) to spur sales and ease the whole process.

    1. I wanted to write this blog to make it clear what is involved in doing a sale and that it is not for everyone. I also wanted to make it simple to know how to do a sale if they wanted to. I am glad you found it to be a good introduction to the world of yard/tag/garage “saleing”.

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